Bringing Up Boys

Title: Bringing Up Boys
Author: James Dobson
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
First Published: 2001
Price: US$16
Reviewer: E Charles

Dr Dobson, a leading American child psychologist lays out the role of parents on bringing up boys in this way:

Their assignment during two brief decades will be to transform their boys from immature and flighty youngsters into honest, caring men who will be respectful of women, loyal and faithful in marriage, keepers of commitments, strong and decisive leaders, good workers, and secure in their masculinity.”



This is an objective that few parents would disagree with. But how do we achieve it?

The key lies in the need to understand and respect that boys in general are fundamentally different from girls. Dr Dobson draws attention to this gender difference and what it entails. Boys act the way they do (unlike girls) because of the different way they think about risky behavior. Girls tend to think hard about whether or not they could get hurt, and they are less likely to plunge ahead if there is any potential for injury. Boys, however, will take a chance if they think the danger is worth the risk. Impressing their friends (and eventually girls) is usually considered worth the risk.

In typical uncompromising fashion, Dr Dobson informs parents to accept this fact that “boys are like this because of the way they are wired neurologically and because of the influence of hormones that stimulate certain aggressive behaviour.”

However, Dr Dobson sees the confusion of the role of men in society today to make it ever more challenging for parents and teachers, putting them at a loss about how to bring up boys. He believes that prevailing culture has vilified masculinity…with the result boys are suffering.

This is compounded by the disengagement of parents in our fast-paced and dizzying world through divorce and career demands."

Boys "typically suffer more" from parental neglect and mistreatment than girls "because boys are more likely to get off course when they are not guided and supervised carefully."

In the book, he devotes whole chapters to the importance of healthy father-son and mother-son relationships, the special challenges facing single mothers, and the value of good relationships between children and grandparents.

A culmination of four years of painstaking research, and written in his frank and authoritative manner, it is an advice-packed, sobering but encouraging reference for the parents of boys.


Children Are People Too!

MABEL Lim, directress of Kids' Playway Montessori, reviews Dr Porter's book. After researching behaviour management in childcare centres, Dr Porter concluded that the prevailing reward and punishment approach does not work, that it's not in children's, or parents', interests to overtly attempt to control children's behaviour.

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The Singapore Story (Abridged Edition)


Lee Kuan Yew is the architect of modern Singapore. He did his much awaited memoirs in the late 90s in two volumes. This book is the abridged version of the first volume which dealt with his boyhood in pre-World War II Singapore, his Japanese Occupation experience, his Cambridge University years when his political views took shape, and his work preparing for the launch of the People's Action Party that has since dominated the Singapore political landscape.

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Guidelines for strength training

Earlier we explained why it would help to have some form of strength or resistance training for tweens/teens. We also examined the validity of possible concerns that parents might have about starting their child with a strength training programme.

In this final instalment to this series on fitness for life, we discuss important guidelines that must be understood and adhered to when starting such a training programme.

Understand this first

By the time children reach their tween years (7 to 8), balance and posture control skills mature to adult levels. This is the best time to start on a resistance training programme – meaning it should not start before achievement of those skills. For reaping the best value from such a programme, the child should ideally have advanced to a certain level of skill proficiency in their sport.

Strength gains can be acquired through various types of strength-training methods and equipment; however, most strength-training machines and gymnasium equipment cater for adults with weight increments that are too large for children.

Thus it’s better for them to start with free weights. These require better balance control and technique but are small and portable, provide small weight increments, and can be used for strengthening sports-specific movements.

However, remember that strength training is different from the sport of weightlifting (Olympic lifting) which involves explosive and rapid lifting of weights, such as the "snatch" and the "clean and jerk". Children should avoid this because safe technique may be difficult to maintain and young body tissues may be stressed too abruptly.

Starting on a strength training programme

A child’s strength training program should not be viewed as a scaled-down version of an adult programme. So note the following key pointers:

Seek instruction. Start with a coach or personal trainer who has experience with youth strength training. The coach or trainer can create a safe, effective strength training program based on your child's age, size, skills and sports interests. Or enroll your child in a strength training class designed for kids.

Warm up. This is vital to avoid muscle strain. Five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging in place or jumping rope warms the muscles and helps reduce the risk of injury. Gentle stretching after each session is a good idea, too.

Keep it light. Begin with low-resistance exercises until proper technique is perfected. When 8 to 10 repetitions can be performed, it is reasonable to add weight in 10% increments.

Sources of resistance. Remember that the resistance doesn't have to come from just weights. Resistance tubing and body-weight exercises, such as push-ups, can be just as effective.

Optimal gains in strength. Stick to eight to 10 repetitions. Workouts need to be at least 20 to 30 minutes long and take place two to three times per week, and continue to add weight or repetitions as strength improves. Any increase in such frequency seems to have no additional benefit and may instead increase the risk for an overuse injury.

Endurance training. If endurance is an objective, increase the repetitions but with lighter resistance.

Stress proper technique. This is more important than focusing on the amount of weight lifted. Your child can gradually increase the resistance or number of repetitions as he or she gets older.

Supervise. Adult supervision is an important part of youth strength training. If your child lifts weights, act as a spotter — someone who stands ready to grab the weights — in case the weight becomes too heavy.

Rest between workouts. Make sure your child rests at least one full day between exercising each specific muscle group. This is a basic principle to optimise the benefit of any training. It also helps to reduce injury through strain. Thus two or three strength training sessions a week should be sufficient.

Finally, remember that your goals when exercising with children are simple: Be safe, have fun and help kids learn to love physical activity. Results won't come overnight. But eventually, your child will notice a difference in muscle strength and endurance. This would be the key motivation to establishing a fitness habit that lasts a lifetime.